Monitor's Hot Ticket: The Sporting Scene

Good morning. Or possibly good afternoon. Or for a few of you laggard folks who can't ever seem to get caught up, good evening.

Welcome to The Sporting Scene, a brand-new column. It's so new it squeaks. But sometimes it will roar. Or lament. Or praise. Or ridicule. Or reason.

The Sporting Scene has a lofty goal: It wants to become what you most look forward to in the Monitor. It will not take no for an answer. Every Friday, we'll be here. We will be taking attendance, and there will be unannounced quizzes. Column skipping will not be brooked.

The column wants to be clipped out. It wants to be copied for friends.

It wants to be stuck on refrigerator doors by magnets, right next to the kids' report cards. (Sadly, my mother never put my report card on the refrigerator. After all, she had her standards, and her dignity. But I digress.)

Above all, The Sporting Scene wants to be read. And dissected. And commented upon. All this will be no problem. You will be hooked. See, you're already on the line, and I'm fixin' to start reeling you in.

That's because this column will be like no other. Too often, sports columns are written only for sports fans. That's wrong. Dead wrong.

Routinely, people who write about sports assume you recall that Earl Lloyd once led the National Basketball Association in personal fouls and that Denver's Rick Upchurch has the fifth-longest kickoff return in Super Bowl history.

If you know these kinds of things and worse, if you care, your life is way too shallow. You are not qualified to read The Sporting Scene. Go elsewhere. Get out of our way. Go off in a corner and be ashamed.

We will deal with a dizzying panoply of sports. Sometimes it may be the likes of a Super Bowl or a World Series or Wimbledon or Olympics that will capture our attention. But often, it will not. In my misspent life trooping around the world following the athletes, visiting with them, and watching the games they play, the most interesting stories come not from, say, the World Figure Skating Championships in Paris a few years back but from the camel and ostrich races in Virginia City, Nev.; not from Davis Cup tennis in Ecuador but from the International Hot Pepper Eating Contest in New Iberia, La.

Sure, I've enjoyed time spent - much of it while I was in the employ of Sports Illustrated as a senior writer - with Magic Johnson and Steve Young and Joe Paterno and Barry Switzer and Steffi Graf. Who wouldn't? But my two all-time favorites are an old man in Salt Lake City who juggles chain saws (operating) and pitchforks and hand grenades at the same time and reads about 100 books a year, and a former football coach in southern California who believed it best if his team won about half its games (so that opponents could win at least half of theirs) and who understood if players missed practice to go to the beach because he often did the same thing.

The joy of sport is that its reach is so broad and the glory of sport is that its fascination is so deep. The Sporting Scene will appeal to all of you. My wife is one of those who inexplicably doesn't know the difference between a three-putt green and a third down and long ago concluded it's not important. If you're like her, welcome.

On the other hand, if you're more like me when it comes to sports, which is to say, you know instantly that Fran Tarkenton is seventh in most passing yards in Super Bowls, welcome. (OK, OK, I didn't know that at all. I looked it up. I was trying to show off. It was so tacky. My life is not so shallow that I know junk like this. Forgive me. It will never happen again.)

The calling card for The Sporting Scene will be its dead-ahead forthrightness and its uncompromising honesty. No gilding the sports lily here. When people in sports do wrong, we will discuss it. Mark Twain got it beautifully when he wrote, "Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to." But when people do right, we also will discuss it. Twain covered that: "Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest."

The Sporting Scene will gratify you, and at times, astonish you. This is going to be great fun.

* Douglas S. Looney's e-mail address is

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